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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ska-Core, Some Rockets & More

While I was waiting for the dinner fire to settle down to merely incredibly hot, I got a start on painting the latest additions to Lobster Fleet.

Hulk, obviously, gets fluorescent green. Hellboy gets red. Curtis the Caveman gets stone-textured paint.

These things are pretty easy to figure. I ran out of both red and fluorescent green before I got good even color. The Hulk is easy because that paint is a recoat at any time paint. Which is rare. Most spray paints tell you things like within an hour or after 24 hours. Or within 3 hours or after 48 hours. The red Krylon Fusion stuff is within 24 or after 7 days. And there's a zero percent chance I'm going to purchase another can of the stuff and get it to my garage within 24 hours, so Hellboy is on hold for a week.

These warnings, you learn to read them when you get a rocket that's all blistered or wrinkled from a reaction between coats.

So anyway, Curtis was easy. The rock paint really looks great with even one coat. I gave it a second light coat just to be sure, but he's going to look awesome. Not sure about decals on this highly texture surface, but anyway.

Then there's Otis.

Otis is the name of the horned bulldog in the Mighty Mighty BossTone's logo.

Anyway, when my ticket to see one of my favoritest bands in the world came in the mail I got this notion. This band dates back to 1985. They broke up ('went on hiatus') for three years or so, getting back together last year, but for all intents and purposes they've been a traveling act for over twenty years.

They're not a household name, I don't suppose. Except for a brief period about twelve years ago when Ska became the pop culture flavor of the month, they've mostly enjoyed as much airplay as the Dry Heaves get.

The Dry Heaves, by the way, was a band I was in back when I was dating a psycho punk chick in 9th grade. Except it was never really quite a band: it never had a bassist and a drummer at the same time, and I never figured out how to sing while playing even the most mind-bogglingly simple chord progressions. Most of the time the band was made up of me. And 'we' (I had band-mates, but I doubt I ever had more than one at a time) never played a show. Part of the problem was probably in the fact that I was obnoxious to a fault, alienating potential band members before we could even get together to play, but mainly I didn't really want to be in a punk band when I was 15.

What I wanted to be in was my punk girlfriend, and the band was mainly a means to that dubious end. It didn't work, and we were all probably better off for it, especially the other teenage musicians who didn't end up on stage as part of the Dry Heaves.

The mohawked girlfriend eventually dropped me for a much more authentic punk. A mutual friend who once told me he'd decided on shoplifting as a career. When I asked him what he'd do if they put him in jail, he shrugged and said, 'They feed you there, what's the problem?'

How could I compete with that, right?

But I didn't start this post to talk to you about my failed hardcore aspirations. The Mighty Mighty BossTones, unlike the Dry Heaves or the Shitty Beatles, are more than just a clever name. They are very much a band, but as I say, I understand if you haven't heard of them.

They're not completely obscure. They did a sneaker advert, I think, which puts them in a league with The Beatles in a way. And they did Sesame Street, and you have to be fairly famous to get to do a song for the Children's Television Workshop. Not necessarily an arena rocker, but at least as famous as, say, Melissa Ethridge or the Spin Doctors.

In 23 years touring, playing mostly bars where it's easy to approach the band for autographs, I'll bet Dicky Barrett & Co. think they've autographed everything. Besides CDs, records (yes, really), T-shirts, napkins, autograph books, ticket stubs, etc., Besides people's body parts, knowing full well the fan is going straight to the first tattoo parlor that won't turn away a drunk to have it made permanent. And so on.

But a rocket? I'll bet they've never been presented with a fan who wanted his model rocket signed. I don't know if I can get to the band, but the venue is Grinders, it's not like trying to catch up to Garth Brooks at the Spring Center. I don't think I'll take the rocket in to the show. More likely I'll try to catch the band after, retrieve the rocket from the car.

I've laid down a base coat of orange, and I think I'll leave the fins that way. The fins would be the logical points for an autograph, and there are eight or nine members of the band depending on who you ask. So the four fins are eight sids. I might leave the nose cone orange for any autographs that don't fit on the fins.

The body tube presents a challenge almost as great as stalking a favorite band for autographs. How to make it plaid. And Otis really must wear plaid. If you're into the BossTones, you'll understand. If you're not, well...

Then there's the other problem: if I get the band to sign the rocket, will I have the guts to fly it, knowing my one-of-a-kind Mighty Mighty BossTone's autographed Otis might end up hanging from some tree?

Salmon With Chipotle Mayonnaise

It's been entirely too long since I grilled salmon. I'd pretty much forgotten how good it is.

But after I lit the grill, I realized I was short on lighter fluid. Usually I use too much, and consequently the bottle ran empty and I had to hope I had enough to light the coals. Coals that are very moist from the humidity of my recently flooded garage...

Nope. Nothing doing. So I tried something. I use denatured alcohol to clean up epoxy when I'm working with my rockets, and I know that's basically Sterno, the can even says it's suitable fuel for marine stoves.

So I took a big Dixie cup and filled it with the stuff. Then I cautiously chucked this onto the half-lit coals.

I'm glad I was cautious, because it went up spectacularly. Set off a heat wave that might have moved the hairs on my head if I had any.

Then, after the coals had burned down, I worried about whether it was safe to cook directly over the coals if there was any residual methanol there. So I Googled it and it turns out it's on Sterno's FAQ. They don't recommend cooking directly over a methanol fire but not because it's dangerous. The explicitly say the fumes won't be a problem, that as long as you don't pour the denatured alcohol on the food you're cool. But it's a very, very hot fire, and you're more likely to set fire to dinner than cook it.

Which led me to two things: first, I wondered about a hybrid rocket motor with liquid oxygen or nitrous oxide and denatured alcohol. Seems like it would be a pretty kick-ass propellant combination.

Second, I wrapped this sizeable piece of salmon in several layers of foil with the reflective side out. I figured this would mitigate my extremely hot fire and keep the fish from drying out.

It worked like a charm. The salmon was perfect in ten minutes. Flaky and moist.

I made some chipotle mayonnaise and sliced some red onion paper thin, cracked some pepper and ground a bit of sea salt over it, and wow. Truly a dinner worth sitting down to.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Theme For The Day Is...

Coming back from Children's Mercy, we saw this truck. Estes Express might not mean much to you, but for me it brings an image of this truck with a rocket booster strapped to its roof to give it a burst of speed...

And then I saw Google had their page done up in a tribute to NASA. And don't forget, I spotted the TWA Moonliner on their headquarters building in the Crossroads district. Hmmm.

Originally, I was taking a half day off to take Em to the doctor. But by the time I got her back to her mother's house, it was noon. And I had an appointment at the crack house,* so I would have to leave work on time. Meaning I'd drive an hour and a half to two hours in order to work three and a half.

With gas being what it is, I decided to call in and find out how desperately I was needed. It could have been desperately, Monday was insane. With the August 5th primary coming up, all these politicians are trying to do last-minute hit-pieces. Their idea is to get them in the mail so they arrive very close to the election. Fresh in the voter's minds and without time for the guy being 'hit' to do much in the way of hitting back.

Personally, I think it's kind of cute, all these wildly irresponsible political mailers. They're pretty much true, but they'd pretty much be true if you swapped the name of the target with the name of the 'paid for by.' In any case, it meant that Monday was filled to overflowing with rush jobs. Someone should create preprinted hit-pieces like those legal documents you can buy. Just fill out the name of your opponent and the date of the election and you're good to hit the mail house.

But anyway, the answer turned out to be not that desperately. All the hit pieces are on the press or already on the way to the mailing houses. So I took the second half of the day off as well.

And filled it by playing Vectoids.


Actually, I had this idea I'd cash in on the relatively cool weather and finally mow my lawn. But first I'd do just one or two things with my latest rocket projects.

Next time I looked at the clock, it was 15 minutes until my chiropractic appointment.

I just finished listening to Lawrence Block's 'Hit Parade,' a mediocre novel about a stamp-collecting hired killer. There's some discussion in there about what the hobby provides, which is absorption. While he's working with his stamps the world just ceases to be. I guess it's true of all hobbies. I can lose an afternoon in the guitar, building rockets, making beer. But not in mowing the lawn.

I did mow the worst of it between the appointment and the beginning of the rains.

But mainly today I built rockets. Fitting, I suppose, given it's the 50th anniversary of NASA.

I've been experimenting with finishing resin, coated all of Curtis the Caveman (the Rock-It kit, Em came up with that name) with resin. Also did the bottom half of Hulk that way. And all of Hellboy.

I also experimented with fiberglass on Curtis the Caveman. I came really close to chucking the fins Estes provides and making my own through-the-wall fins. But what's the point of buying a kit if all I'm really going to use from it is the nose cone?

So since they're surface-glued fins, I knew epoxy was out. I just can't hold something in place long enough for epoxy to set. Well, the epoxy I buy anyway. I never seem to think of buying that five-minute kind.

I went with yellow wood glue, Titebond II. It's a very strong bonding agent for wood and paper, which is what you're doing with a model rocket. I roughed up the body tube where the fins joined to help that 'molecular' bond.

But then I also applied finishing resin to the whole body and fins and applied strips of 2oz fiberglass cloth to the fin joints and wetted them out as well. Should be tough enough.

On Hulk, the trick of putting epoxy putty strips around the motor tube and then inserting it and putting the fins in worked perfectly. I did the epoxy putty fillet trick on the body tube joint because with such thin fins and a thin body to boot, I figured it could use the stability.

I've been trying to improve my paint jobs and finishes on my rockets. Experimenting with sanding down the epoxy/finishing resin surfaces. I'm also thinking of experimenting with wet-sanding between coats of paint. Which I have mixed feelings about. When I see other modeler's rockets and they're slick and clean on close inspection, I kick myself for rushing through the finishing to get the rocket ready to fly. Then I lose a rocket in a tree and at least I didn't lose another three hours to the finer points of finishing...

The fiberglass cloth takes some getting used to. It wants to unravel for a start. And even with good shears, it's hard to cut it square. Then there's trying to get it where you want it, get it wetted out without wadding it up. It's kind of like papier-mâché with ridiculously flimsy paper that wants desperately to fray and wad up on you. It stinks worse than papier-mâché, but it's the same idea. The Z-Poxy finishing resin I use smells like corrosive tuna when you mix the resin and hardener.

I hope I haven't cooked up a couple more Floyds. He was the culmination of my first campaign to build 'low-and-slow' large rockets. He was so heavy I can only fly him with a NOTAM called in to the FAA; plus $15 or so a flight for the composite E-30 motor he requires.

But this time I didn't build with a huge stuffer tube inside. The reason I did that with Floyd was to cut the interior volume so the ejection charge would pop the nose cone. On Hellboy and Joker, I designed them to break at the middle instead of the nose cone so their internal volume is about the same as Mr. Creosote's. These aren't quite as long as Floyd, either. I think they'll both finish out about the same weight as Dr. Tommy, who is a gloriously low-and-slow cheap-black-powder-motor rocket.

The fit for Hellboy was too tight with the center coupler, so I ended up shaving it considerably. Then I worried that it wouldn't have the stiffness to do the job, so I ended up soaking it with finishing resin for insurance.

I feel like I'm in a rut building three BT-80 (2.6" diameter) rockets and a 3" diameter. I guess I balanced them out with those Micro-Maxx jobbies.

Hulk ends up being a quarter inch short of 45." Hellboy is about two inches shorter, but still substantial.

So anyway, happy birthday to NASA. Fifty years old and still wasting three bucks for every nickel's worth of space exploration. But your shit works and that's more than most can say...

I"m actually still debating the full name of the Hulk. The Inedible Hulk? Inscrutable Hulk? Maybe the Indebtable Hulk, a tribute to the high price of gasoline.

Originally the Big Daddy kit I'm building was going to be the Hulk and I was going to do a Joker rocket. I'll still probably do a Joker, but my ticket to see the Mighty Mighty BossTones came in the mail and I got a notion. I'll come back to that in my next Rocket Lobster post, I think.

*Crack house as in chiropractor.

Went Down to the Crossroads....

I really want to live in this neighborhood. It's about as good as it gets without leaving the area.

I was dubious when I heard people talking about 'The Crossroads Art District,' but it's actually come together nicely. Only cinder in the stew now is a godawful real estate market to sell my house in coupled with developers running up the price of real estate in this formerly blighted 'hood.

I love this TWA Moonliner, too. When I saw that, I knew I was home.

I asked Em if she thought it'd be a good neighborhood to live in. She asked if there was a lot of crime. When I said not that I've heard, it's mostly artists, she suddenly wanted to live there too.

Now all I have to do is find the devil so I can sell my soul...

Children's Mercy

I took a half day off work to take Em to her neurologist. She's prone to migraines and about once a year goes for a followup with the specialist who writes prescriptions to prevent this.

The artist formerly known as Frau Lobster dropped Em off at my house early. I knew one of the things the doc (who's first name is spelled the same as his last name but pronounced differently) was keen to get her doing was fish oil. We tried to get her to take a gel cap of it a few years back and she freaked herself out so badly she couldn't get it down.

After much fatherly needling, I convinced her to try throwing one back and taking a big gulp of chocolate soy milk. Then she was mad at me because it really was as easy as I said it was.

So now she has no excuse. Ha!

Anyway, the hospital this doctor's office is in, Children's Mercy, is the most attractive hospital I've ever seen. They have a concrete parking garage, sure. But they paint the levels with different colors and paint the walls around the elevators with fanciful scenes. There are colored accent lights in the hallways, brightly colored borders to things and kid-friendly artwork. It's an environment that was given some thought, the thought being that sick kids don't need to be in an environment engineered to make even a healthy kid feel half dead.

So here's the thing: what is the excuse of all these other hospitals? These cosmetic touches are not expensive by the looks of it. Sure, it cost something to paint murals in the parking garage instead of leaving it bare concrete, but surely some money could be freed up in the average hospital by, say, cutting back on harshly over-lighting the hallways or something.

The main thing is, the average hospital is built with no thought to the patients or staff. They're built along the same general principles of those Tyson chicken factories: calculate how many units can be stacked in how much space and the architecture part is done. Just order some pre-fab concrete slabs and glass, skin a couple of illegals to do the manual labor, and you've got yourself a hospital.

Oh, and the artwork on the walls. I spotted the absolute gay-weddingest Bert and Ernie I've ever seen. When I was growing up, it was don't-ask-don't-tell with these two, but I guess they've decided to come out. Way out.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Comic Fleet

I somehow got busy doing other stuff and accumulated a couple of kits and some other rocket building supplies.

Oh yeah, I just realized what had me so busy. Seeing movies adapted from comic books. And I think it's influenced my rocket building as much as it's impeded it.

So here you see the construction what will either be the Credible Hulk or the Inedible Hulk (I haven't decided yet, it might be another awful Tourettic tribute).

And Hellboy. I think that's what I'm going to call my second Estes Big Daddy. This is to replace BeBop, the Big Daddy who fell in love with a tree at Shawnee Mission Park.

I have a Rock-It in the works as well, and I haven't come up with a stupid comic book tie-in to name it. Yet. It's got a dimpled nose cone made to create the impression of something hewn from rock. It has three uniquely lumpy fins, too. I think this is going to be one of those kits I find myself wanting to build my own version of but do it right. With this one, I'm almost following Estes' instructions. Except for that Kevlar shock chord mounted to a plywood ring and making the thrust ring deep enough to allow E motors.

In other comic book news, I have a rocket much like Mr. Creosote, but with laser-cut G10 fiberglass fins I had made by Balsa Machining last time I ordered from them.

They can only laser-cut very thin G10, but the stuff is so strong it's worth using. These fins are maybe two or three points thick, tops. But rigid as all get out. G10 fiberglass fins are favored by the people doing big boy rockets you have to have an FAA waiver and a launch site like the Black Rock Desert to fly. Tough stuff.

Anyway, with through the wall fins, you want to make sure they stay perpendicular to the body tube while they set up and with these skinny fins, I don't know if I can trust the epoxy to get tacky fast enough. So I have an idea. It's either brilliant or stupid, and I'll have to try it to let you know.

Before inserting the motor tube assembly, I'm going to make a couple of rings of epoxy putty around it. This is for the fins to set in. But after the motor tube is in the body, I'll put the fins in to create slits in the putty, then retract them and let the putty set. Then I can squirt epoxy in the fin slots and coat the fin tabs and know they've got something true to grab hold of in there.

I figure it's 50/50: it'll either work or it won't.

And to continue the comic book thing, I was thinking The Joker for this one...

Creamy White Clam Rigatoni

Just a heads up, this isn't exactly a low-cal dish. I thought it was a little less insane than it turned out to be, but when I looked at my dinner this evening and the two lunches of leftovers it made, I added up the calories in the ingredients, and if you treat this as three servings (which, I realize, is probably the entire problem; it's really more like five if you eat like skinny people), it's about 1100 calories per serving.

Anyway, it's pretty good stuff. Would have been better if I hadn't run short on crushed red pepper. An extra can of clams might have helped spruce up the clam flavor, too.

But basically:

Boil 1 lb rigatoni for 12 minutes then stir in:
1 jar Alfredo sauce
1 can Progresso White Clam pasta sauce
1 can medium black olives
about 1 cup parmesan cheese
crushed red pepper to taste
a dash of dried basil for the hell of it

Anyway, like I say, if you have an extra can of bivalves on hand, I'd include them juice and all. If it's too wet, just ad parmesan until it stiffens up.

And relax. It's not like eating soy milk on whole grain granola, but it's not like eating a large pepperoni pizza at one go either.

Hannah 3D

Em and her sleepover mate had a great deal of discussion about what was really 3D and what wasn't in the TV broadcast of Hannah Montana's 3D concert show.

I was always a bigger fan of Roseanne Rosannadanna, but I'm told I have no taste at all.

Cheese Boogers

I'm such a pyromaniac when I grill.

Ahem. Anyway...

I think I found the balance I wanted. Using the 97/3 ground beef, the leanest in the store, but only making 1/2 cup patties. That's just a hair over a quarter pound, as the 2-1/4 pound package made eight patties.

Then, doing the rolling pin trick got the diameter up where after shrinking (which beef this lean does much less of than, say, ground chuck at 80/20) still covers a nice large bun.